Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


than this in it. The courtier as such, however important, was not
a universal type of man. In Italy in Castiglione's own day, there
were some States (like Venice, for instance) where commercial
ability counted for more than courtly qualities, and where con-
sequently the secretary was more highly esteemed than the
courtier; and in the northern lands there were other differences
quite as pronounced. That, in spite of this, The Book of the
Courtier found a ready welcome throughout Europe and helped
to impress the moral and intellectual ideals of the Italian Renais-
sance on many generations of the ruling classes everywhere, is
only to be explained by the fact that the fundamental attributes
of Castiglione's courtier are not the attributes of a single class or
of a special social group, but of mankind in all the high possibilities
revealed by a great age.


Notwithstanding the proximity of France to Italy, the new
learning and the conception of social life that went with it were
slow to establish themselves among the French. The university
of Paris with its commanding authority kept the schoolmen
faithful for long to the studies of the Middle Ages ; and the noble
classes, unlike their Italian fellows, generally regarded scholarship
as incompatible with military prowess, and were inclined to despise
letters. But from the time the French army returned from the
expedition to Italy in 1494 with some knowledge of Italian
manners and culture, a change came over the temper of the
country ; and the Renaissance was just getting under way when
the German Reformation took place. Thenceforward the classical
studies had not only to be pushed on against the conservative
reaction they encountered in other lands, but had to meet a
strenuous resistance because of their supposed association with
the Protestant doctrines. For a time the issue was doubtful. The
university of Paris strove resolutely to dam back the movement
by persecuting both religious and academic heretics to the full
extent of its powers. It was not till Francis I, aspiring to the role of
patron of the humanities in accordance with the precedent of the
Italian courts, took the professors of the new learning under his
care that the literary renaissance began to occupy a secure position.